Tours > Royal County of Berkshire Towns |
Royal County of Berkshire Towns
by David Nash Ford BA, Editor, History on Britannia
The Royal County of Berkshire lies along the southern reaches of the upper Thames, immediately west of London. The county is the epicentre of both road and rail communications outside the capital and is therefore an ideal place to stay wherever you are planning to visit in Southern England or Wales. Near the sites of London town, yet out in the beautiful English countryside, on the edge of the great University city of Oxford and only a short motorway or train journey from the cathedral cities of Winchester, Salisbury and Guildford. This is the place that the Queen of England has chosen as her main residence. Need we say more.
Windsor Castle, the home of the Royal Family, is the largest inhabited castle in the World. As many of the state apartments are open to the public throughout the year, this is one of the places which few first time visitors to Britain miss. Yet there is so much more to Berkshire, a beautiful county which people often travel through rather than stopping to enjoy. Eastern Berkshire is the place for lazy summer days messing about in boats on the Thames or strolling in Windsor Great Park. Mid-Berkshire is the heart of the bustling English Silicone Valley with Night Life and a Shopper's Paradise. The West has rolling fields running down to the Kennet & Avon Canal where slow moving barges seem hail a more relaxed pace of life. Moving North, the land rises to form the spectacular Berkshire Downs overlooked by the World famous Uffington White Horse, cut into the hillside some 3,000 years ago. The ancient ridgeway path, known so well to keen walkers, runs along the crest before the hills drop down into the Vale of the White Horse, now sadly lost to the administration of Oxfordshire County Council. As the Thames becomes the Isis, the spires of Oxford can be seen just across the river while, in the north-west of the county, Cotswold stone begins to appear in the rural architecture.
Dotted amongst this natural beauty are diverse towns, both big and small. Reading verges on a city, Windsor holds the unique atmosphere of an urban Royal residence while more rural areas have smaller market-towns to explore. There are castles, abbeys, museums, ancient churches, old market-halls and some amazing historical connections. Each town has its own fascination as David Ford discovers.
First Stop: Windsor